LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 5 no 4,  1997. ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Stop the Plunder in Nigeria – Boycott Shell

The following is a series of extracts from an article by Norm Dixon, Green Left Weekly, September, 1997. Reproduced with kind permission. It is an appeal by Ledum Mitee of Ogoniland, in Nigeria.

Shell first struck oil in the lush Niger River delta in the 1950s. Since oil production began in 1958, money has poured from the delta into the coffers of Shell and the pockets of the corrupt central government and military high command. But the environmental and social cost has been great.

When we talk about oil installations in Nigeria, we are not talking about some remote facilities in the bush or in the sea. We are talking about oil wells, gas flares and pipelines right next door…They burn 24 hours a day, for years, producing toxic fumes…"It was not long before these pipelines, which run between oil wells and flow stations, started to burst, spilling large amounts of crude oil…Between 1982 and 1992 Nigeria was the site of 40% of Shell’s oil spills worldwide - 7.4 million litres. Drinking water in the region contains levels of the petroleum hydrocarbons 350 times that allowed in the Europe union…

We found out that, apart from pollution, the flare that burns 24 hours a day also attract all the insects. Crops are devoured, and pollution kills them. So the land dies. People who lived on subsistence farming go hungry. The pollution enters the sea, and the mangroves…The land is polluted, the seas are polluted, the wildlife is scared away."

In the face of this, the 500,000 Ogoni people decided to organise for their rights. "We decided to launch MOSOP [Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People], led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, in 1990…

"We…thought that Shell should clean up the mess they had made. We demanded that the resources taken from our land should be used for development of the region."…

Mitee told the audience: " Since Shell came to the delta, billions worth of oil and gas have been taken out, yet the people have no electricity, no running water, no hospital, no schools. It costs Shell about $2.70 to produce one barrel of oil, and they are selling that oil for $19 or $20 a barrel. As a result, Shell is one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies."

MOSOP presented its demands to Shell, Mitee explained. It also launched a campaign of mass action. In January 1993, in defiance of the regime’s ban on public demonstrations, more than 300,000 Ogoni and their supporters marched in a massive show of support for the MOSOP demands. Soon after, Saro–Wiwa was detained several times, prompting more large scale protests

…The military sent in their troops. People were shot, people were wounded. About 15 villages were completely destroyed….Mitee said that the repression is continuing "Since 1993 an estimated 2500 people have been killed…"

…Mitee urged solidarity activists to pressure the Australian government to take action against Nigeria at the October Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting. Mitee has been lobbying Commonwealth countries for Nigeria’s expulsion but has been disappointed at the response. He has also called for sanction against oil exports from Nigeria.

"When the Commonwealth took the decision to suspend Nigeria after the Ken Saro-Wiwa murder, they said that unless the dictatorship respected human rights, released political prisoners and returned Nigeria to democracy within two years, they would be expelled.

"That two years has ended! Even though Commonwealth governments I have met with all agree with me that things are getting worse , they are not prepared do to anything. It is because it would pit them in a struggle against one of the world’s most influential and profitable companies."

Mitee also encouraged activists to think of ways to hit Shell’s profits. He reminded them of the success of Greenpeace’s Shell boycott in protest at its plan to scuttle the Brent spar oil platform in the North Sea...

Friends Of the Earth say CHOGM resolved in October 1997 to delay expulsion for one year and to "consider" an oil embargo against Nigeria

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